Section 377A: An impotent anachronism

Time for serious reconsideration of Section 377A

Indian members and supporters of the country's LGBT community celebrating the Supreme Court decision to strike down a colonial-era ban on gay sex on Sept 6. The ruling reignited debate in Singapore as to whether private sexual acts between males shou
Indian members and supporters of the country's LGBT community celebrating the Supreme Court decision to strike down a colonial-era ban on gay sex on Sept 6. The ruling reignited debate in Singapore as to whether private sexual acts between males should be similarly decriminalised.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

In a recent landmark case, Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India ("Navtej"), the Indian Supreme Court broke new ground by declaring parts of the Indian equivalent of Section 377A of our Penal Code to be unconstitutional.

This promptly reignited local debate as to whether private sexual acts between males (or homo-sex for short) should be similarly decriminalised in Singapore. Section 377A, which penalises only male homo-sex, is regarded by many as an anachronistic expression of Victorian morality imposed on several British colonies. Far from expressing a universal morality, the sentiments inspiring this provision seem to be misaligned with the contemporary social mores of a multi-cultural, multi-religious and secular society.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 30, 2018, with the headline 'Section 377A: An impotent anachronism'. Subscribe